In a Message for Australia Day (26 January 2012) the Commission for Justice, Ecology and Development of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has called for more compassionate treatment of asylum seekers. Four of the Bishops who signed this statement minister directly to asylum seekers in immigration detention centres located in their dioceses. They say there must be a limit to how long asylum seekers can be held in immigration detention. Read the full Bishops’ Australia Day call for time limit on detention.
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s social networking protocol encourages the use of new media for evangelisation. It stresses the importance of upholding human dignity in the virtual world. Read the protocol here.
The Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office (ACMRO) has welcomed changes which will allow asylum seekers who have arrived in Australia by boat to live in the community rather than immigration detention centres while their claims are assessed. ACMRO is an office of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. Read their media release.
The rising cost of living and slow wages growth in Australia are combining to put pressure on many household budgets. Bishop Vincent Long van Nguyen, Chair of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council expresses concern especially for low paid workers and families living in poverty. In his pastoral letter for the Feast of St Joseph the Worker he says that just wages are the key to the solution. Bishop Long explains the consistent call of Popes for just wages since the 1890’s. Then he goes on to explain the current wage crisis and its impact on families. He declares that it is a challenge for the whole community and notes the different solutions proposed. Bishop Long concludes with a call for a new consensus to strike a balance between wages and profits. In doing this he references the Prices and Incomes Accords of the 1980s. It has been done before. In the 1980s, business, unions and government agreed on the Prices and Incomes Accords, which limited wage demands, reduced industrial action and lifted the profitability of businesses. Social wage entitlements like Medicare and superannuation benefited workers and the broader community. However imperfect the Accords, they did show the possibility of competing parties coming together to strike a balance between wages and profits. Then, business profits needed to be restored; today it is workers’ wages. The common good, Bishop Long says, demands that we give the greatest support to those in greatest need. Read the Pastoral Letter The pastoral letter is called A Fair Day’s Pay – for the dignity of workers and the good of all. Read the full text here.
The season of Lent calls us to take stock of our lives. How well are we witnessing to our values and beliefs? Do they permeate every dimension of our lives, or do we, perhaps without thinking too much about it, bracket them from some parts of our lives? During the season of Lent we ask ourselves how we can follow Jesus more closely, accepting his invitation to make the Kingdom of God present in the world. In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis reminds us that evangelisation is not complete if the Gospel is separated from any part of life (EG, n 181). The light of the Gospel touches every part of our lives – if we let it in. For example, we can make the Kingdom of God present in the world through what we do – and do not – buy. Fair trade Easter eggs can be an icon of the light of the Gospel shinning on the economic dimension of life. Is Chocolate a Faith Issue? Will you be buying fair trade Easter eggs? Perhaps you haven’t really thought much about chocolate production as a faith issue? However the way in which a lot of chocolate is produced involves the exploitation and even enslavement and trafficking of workers, including children. Unfair terms of trade also keep communities in poverty and dependence. These are issues that Pope Francis is very concerned about. So, if you want to stand with him against these injustices, one thing that you can do is to buy only fair trade chocolate. Never heard of fair trade chocolate? There’s lots of information about fair trade chocolate at Stop the Traffick. Each year Australian Religious Against Trafficking in Humans runs an Easter campaign designed to raise awareness of the links between chocolate production and trafficking in persons and how we can use our power as consumers to promote change. We can witness to our faith by shopping for fair trade Easter eggs. How will you recognize fair trade chocolate? There is a system of accreditation and labeling run by Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand as part of the international fair trade network. It works in a similar way to the accreditation and labeling of organic products. There are also producers and retail networks that specialise in fair trade products. The Trading Circle, created by the Good Shepherd Sisters is a good example. They support income-generating projects that provide women with alternatives to prostitution and that reduce the vulnerability of communities to trafficking. You can support their work by buying their products online or in-store. School Activities Check out the schools section of the Traffik Free Chocolate website for activities and resources. Go to this page for a good chocolate gamification update on the traditional Easter Egg Hunt. Another Way of Behaving in the Economy Fair trade networks witness to the Gospel by demonstrating that there is another way of behaving in the economy. Exploitation is not inevitable – it is a choice on the part of producers and consumers. Witnessing to alternative ways of living in the world is a particular gift to the church of the religious institutes and they have been at the forefront of Catholic action on fair trade. Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate, calls for love and the logic of gift to be part of the way in which the global economy operates. This should not be a redistributive afterthought, but an integral part of systems of production and consumption. What fair trade networks have demonstrated is possible must now become an ordinary part of all production and consumption. Clearly, a Christian commitment to fair trade products must go beyond chocolate, and beyond the Easter season. Likewise our participation in making the Kingdom of God present in the world goes beyond our patterns of consumption. But right now, fair trade Easter eggs can be an icon of the new life of the Resurrection present even in acts of production and consumption.